Paul J Pelkonen
, January 2002
"Set in a literal 'School for Lovers,' Jurgen Flimm's production of Cos! Fan Tutte is an entertaining, imaginative version of Mozart's final collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte. The staging and crisp conducting (by Nikolaus Harnoncourt) put an innovative spin on the opera while remaining true to its main story points.
Roberto Sacca, a German-born tenor of Italian extraction, is right for Ferrando, singing with humor, warmth and romantic fire. One believes he could exit the opera with both leading ladies on his arms. As Guglielmo, Swiss baritone Oliver Widmer burns at a lower temperature, but he sings well and is comfortable in the comic moments.
Cecilia Bartoli and Liliana Nikiteanu are close to ideal as the two leading ladies. These DVDs preserve Bartoli's first Fiordiligi. She produces rich, velvet tones; her acting is fiery yet dignified, her steely determination making the surrender of Act II all the more passionate. While Nikiteanu's Dorabella does not carry the emotional weight of Bartoli's performance, it is an entertaining mix of pretty singing, innocent sexuality and occasional hysterics. She pairs well with Sacca and Widmer, and her voice blends attractively with Bartoli's.
Carlos Chausson's Don Alfonso sings with a wry, dry baritone, prowling the stage with a fox-like gleam. In the Act I quintet, he confides to a double-bass in the orchestra that he cannot stop laughing. This ingenious use of orchestral players in the drama sets the tone for his performance, darkly humorous, waiting in the shadows, eyes glinting as the four foolish lovers fall into his trap. Agnes Baltsa, like her colleague Bartoli a celebrated Dorabella, is a spitfire Despina.
The setting is unconventional - classrooms instead of a tavern, candlelight dancing through the courtyard, an inexplicable ostrich in the 'mesmerism' scene. There is an actual blackboard, on which bets are recorded and key theoretical points (e.g., the unfaithfulness of women) are illustrated. This then flips over to be used as an overhead projector. Act II has prettier images than Act I, the romantic sea of candles seeming to flicker and dance in time to Mozart's delicate woodwind writing.
This DVD preserves one of Harnoncourt's great successes, his sophistication evident in a recording that is balanced and glowing with its own inner light, and an improvement over his earlier CD outing for Teldec."